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Len McCluskey favourite to win Unite election

As the ballot closes today in the election for Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey is the favourite to win. He is supported by the union’s broad left United Left, but his support ranges wider than that, drawing from virtually the whole former TGWU section but also from all other sections of the union, including people originating in the former AEU, MSF and print unions. Who wins the leadership of Britain’s biggest union is significant far beyond the membership — in spite of the contrary wishes of some Blairite continuity advocates, the unions continue to cast 50% of the votes at Labour’s conference, and Len McCluskey certainly wants to keep it that way. During the Leadership Campaign, he issued a statement which is a good indication of the directon he’d like to see Labour take:

Important as this election for leader of our Party is, our priority needs to be returning Labour to its roots as a radical reformer Party, breaking with the worship of the free market, the indifference to working class concerns and the support for illegal wars which characterised the New Labour years. I am advocating a collective leadership for our Party – moving away from the presidential style and developing a coherent inclusive Party. Unite is a powerful force in politics.  Of course, our members have different individual political views.  But together we represent a powerful voice speaking up for our common interests at work and in our communities.

The new Con-Lib coalition government presents a major challenge to the trade union movement.  It is set to push ahead with a major cuts programme, threatening the economic recovery, while also looking to break the union-Labour link by law.  Unite must stand up for its members’ interests in this new political situation – members want robust and independent political campaigning whoever is in power.

Labour Party affiliation is in our Rule Book and is central to the traditions of all the unions that have come together to form Unite. I will oppose both attempts by the Tories or the right-wing of the Labour Party to drive the unions out of politics, and attempts from the ultra-left to launch new parties or breakaway movements.

But Unite has to do far more to make the Labour Party link work for us.  We have talked about “reclaiming Labour” for working people but done too little about it.  Without proper democratic involvement, many members will continue to see our affiliation to the Labour Party as pointless.

You as Labour Party activists appreciate this reality.  That is why I shall be pressing for you to receive training, briefs and support for your role as a Unite member playing a key part in developing our Union’s and our Party’s policies – and getting these policies into our communities.

My political principles are clear.  Capitalism has failed, as the present crisis shows.  Organisations like our own which have long espoused progressive values have no reason at all to keep quiet now.  Labour must move on from
the failures of Blairism.

As General Secretary I will:

  • Campaign for the policies in the Peoples Charter adopted by the TUC, putting Unite at the heart of campaigning both with government and our communities.
  • Fight for an agenda that puts working people first, tackles privilege and puts the reduction of inequality as priority number one.
  • Demand greater public control over the key sectors of the economy, to ensure balanced growth and the satisfaction of people’s needs before private profit.
  • Fight for a new industrial relations framework that includes an end to the anti-union laws and provides security for employees and their unions when they stand up to bad employers.
  • Support peace and justice around the world.  We must have no more wars of aggression like the Iraq catastrophe or the futile occupation of Afghanistan.
  • Resource, with other union affiliates, a meaningful strategy to restore Labour as a progressive and democratic Party of working people which stands up for the interests of Unite members.

The result of the election will be announced next Wednesday, 24th November.

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